Trumbull – COMMUNICATION CENTER 42928 (2) – Dan is in France – August 6, 1944

Dan-uniform (2)

Page 2       8/6/44

Did I ever tell you the story of the three divinity students at Yale, a Protestant, a Catholic and a Jew were comparing how far each might eventually get in their chosen professions. The Protestant said he could start as a curate, become rector of a large parish, advance to Archdeacon and eventually become Bishop. The Catholic snorted and said in his church after becoming a priest, Monsignor. and a Cardinal in tern he might eventually become pope, which is right next to God himself, and what could be higher than that! The Jew shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, one of our boys made it”.

And so I am pleased to report to you today that “one of our boys made it”. Dan is in France, as evidence of a v-mail letter written from “an orchard in Normandy”. “I am sitting at home in front of my tent while around me a Normandy farmer and his entire family from little Josette (who carries their cider and black bread) to le grande mere (who wields the rake) toiled to gather the hay for the winter fodder. It is a far cry from London, which city we were quite ready to leave, as you must realize. Only distant rumbling of guns keeps us from forgetting the war which seems so out of place here in the peaceful countryside. The channel crossing, although significant, was effected without incident. Our experience with the local folks thus far has been gratifying. We have been able to buy fresh eggs and cherries, which was virtually impossible in London. The people have treated us with the utmost cordiality. My French studies are bearing a bumper crop of fruit now. Please send me as soon as possible a small pocket dictionary (French – English). Also please send some soap. It is scarcer here even then it was in England”.

COMMENT: Once, long years ago, I took your mother, before we were married, to a performance of a light opera called “The Chimes of Normandy”. Little did either of us realize at that time that one day our son would be where he could hear those same chimes, perhaps peeling out the Angeles at close of day. Dan’s words recall Longfellow’s Evangeline:

          Sea fogs pitched their tents and mists from the mighty Atlantic

Looked on the happy Valley, but ne’er from this station descended

There, in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village.

Strongly built were the houses, with frames of Oak and Chestnut

Such as the peasants of Normandy built in the reign of the Henry’s

Thatched were the roofs, with dormer windows; and gables projecting

Over the basement below protected and shaded the doorway

There in the tranquil evenings of summer, when brightly the sun set

Lighted the village street, and gilded the vanes on the chimneys,

Matrons and maidens sat in snow white caps and in kirtles

Scarlet and blue and green, with distaff’s spinning the golden

Flax for the gossiping looms, whose noisy shuffles within doors

Mingled their sound with the whir of the wheels and the songs of the maidens

Solemnly down the street came the parish priest, and the children

Paused in their play to kiss the hand he extended to bless them.

Then came the laborers home from the field, and serenely the sun sets

Down to his rest and twilight prevailed. Anon from the belfry,

Softly the Angelus sounded, and over the roofs of the village

Columns of pale blue smoke, like clouds of incense ascending

Rose from a hundred hearths, the homes of peace and contentment.

But to return to the practical, a box containing your French – English dictionary, which has been reposing in the bookcase here patiently awaiting your summons, together with five takes of ivory soap and a tube of lather less shaving cream which I have found be very good for a quick, shape, all packed in a box is already on its way to your new APO number.

Dan, next time you write have your secretary jot down somewhere in fine print whether or not you ever received the box of soap, toilet articles and smoking materials I sent you so long ago. I read somewhere the mosquitoes in Normandy were pretty bad. How about flies? Would you like a flyswatter for your tent? In case you run short of soap, I should think some of your lathering shaving cream would do as a substitute. Anyway, I hope the package reaches you promptly. It was mailed about August 4.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the next installment of this long letter. We’ll hear from California and Grandpa’s additional comments.

On Thursday and Friday, we will have the final sections of the letter.

Judy Guion

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Observations From Normandie After D-Day – Dan Writes Home – 3 Aout., 1944

Dan-uniform (2)

Normandie, 3 Aout, 1944

Altho much of the novelty of our new surroundings has worn off, I am still impressed by the casual manner in which the people here live their lives while whole villages and towns are bludgeoned into stark masses of rubble and the roar of planes fills the sky and the endless stream of trucks, jeeps, tanks etc rumble incessantly toward the front, camouflaged in their own tattle-tale dust clouds. Norman folk carry pitifully small bundles that represent their personal possessions are crowded into the steep-sided gutters that line the narrow roads. They are people who are returning to their homes – many of which are mere spectral walls, some of which are miraculously untouched.

In odd contrast to the villages and roads, the countryside has made no compromises with the old man Mars. It is as if he set his feet down only in certain villages which lay along his path, and no evidence of his passing exists beyond the tall, thick hedgerows lining the highways. It is haying time. Fields are dotted with piles of sweet hay, with men kneeling beside them, tying the hay into neat little bundles by a dexterous twist of a strand of grass. These bundles will be fed to the horses and cattle when winter comes, later in the year, to Normandy.

War is fickle. We seem to have been projected into a countryside that scarcely admits the war is going on. I cannot help remembering the day we left London to come here – the sirens were moaning plaintively and we saw several buses laden with evacuee children. Yet here, so much closer to the front, evacuees are returning to their homes! Only at night do we hear Jerry’s planes – usually just a few scattered bomb-reconnaissance planes. We can no longer hear the guns from the front.

I have spoken to many French people since coming here, and I am gratified to know that my French classes at Richmond were thoroughly worthwhile. I have difficulty in understanding French when it is spoken rapidly but that, of course, is to be expected. The following bits of information I was able to catch from those Frenchmen who were persuaded to speak slowly:

Rations under the Germans – 2 pkgs (40 cigarettes) per person per month; 2 small pieces of crude soap per month; no chocolate or other candy. Cider is made in December. If it is made right it will keep for three years (if the Germans and the Yanks don’t get it!) From the hard cider is made “Cognac”, more properly called “calnados” from the country that manufactures it. Even more properly it might be called rot-gut apple jack by those who have the temerity to try it. Eggs are not abundant because it has been impossible to find grain for the poultry.

The German soldiers, recently here, were youngsters from 16 to 20 years old. They were largely service troops, and very poorly fed – “even the dogs would not eat their food” said one reliable source. They often became so hungry that they would munch grass! Some returned from furloughs in Germany almost in tears, with reports that their families, their homes, their friends had all been killed or destroyed in the allied air offensive. Germans visiting French homes were quite agreeable when they came along to a house, but if two or more came together they were distrustful – afraid that what they might say would be held against them by the others.

I have taken every opportunity to talk to the people, hoping to become proficient in the language while I have the opportunity. I talk to the washerwomen who come to the stream running below our camp. I speak to the farmers working in the fields near us. I speak to the children who long ago, learned to ask for “shooly goon” and “bon-bons” from every passing soldier. I visit the farms each evening and gossip with the families – reviewing the war news, asking for cider or cherries, answering questions about America (“are there many elephants there, and camels in the deserts?”) I help two charming French girls with their English lessons, patiently striving to make them pronounce the “th” without a “z” sound.

It’s a very healthful life, living out-of-doors, getting plenty of sleep, appreciating food that would have seemed unpalatable in London, enjoying every minute of this new and absorbing life. Because things here are more exotic than in England, I count this experience second only to my sojourn in Venezuela, and I thank the fates that pull the world’s strings for giving me this opportunity. Packages received here in France will be much more appreciated than they were in England because here we can buy nothing except cider, cherries and an occasional egg.  All the villages, hamlets and cities are “off limits” to all American servicemen and what rations of cigarettes, candy and toilet articles we receive are doled out meagerly by the army, free of charge and at irregular intervals with the plea that we take only what we really need.

                                      Particular requests

                   Cashmere Bouquet soap

                   Gillette’s Brushless Shaving Cream

                   Chocolate bars

                   Any 35-mm camera film (except type A Kodachrome)

                   Half and Half smoking tobacco

 

The rest of the week will be taken up with a long letter from Grandpa, with a lengthy letter from Ced in Alaska and another from Marian, Grandpa makes appropriate comments to them all. 

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Dear Convalescents (1) – Extracts From Dan and Ced – July 16, 1944

 

This letter from Grandpa to his scattered flock contains excerpts from letters he has received in the last week. It is quite a collection and it will take two days to finish the letter. Enjoy.

 

Trumbull, Conn., July 16, 1944

Dear Convalescents:

As your medical advisor I am recommending this week a full dose of extract of Guion, consisting of vitamins DBG, CDG, MIG a substitute for APG, (at the moment unobtainable) and DPG, to be taken with a little water, before, after or between meals.

Extract of DBG. (Daniel Beck Guion) (July 3, London) Gone completely is the idyllic lull about which I wrote so enthusiastically a few weeks past, and in its place has come a period which keeps us too much on our mettle to indulge in languid philosophy. Now we are engulfed in a realism which focuses war in sharp, unmistakable images, exciting… significant… decisive. The none too subtle curtain of the sensor must set as a haze filter to your perception, but one day soon I shall entertain you all with tall tales of “what Dan did in the war” – – and I promise it won’t be too boring. Thoroughly hail and equally hearty, Dan

 

Extract of CDG: (Cedric Duryee Guion) Anchorage almanac. Weather today clear, Sun rises before I get up, sun sets about bedtime. Hours of darkness, practically none. Temperature, good for swimming. Hospitalization notice: One 37 Buick seriously ill of spinal meningitis and requiring extensive surgery for return to active health. Medicines unobtainable in Alaska due to shortage of equipment as of war necessities. An emergency requisition has been placed requesting necessary herbs and tonics. The transmission, after a long and quarrelsome disturbance, accompanied by groans of pain for the last three months, finally had a hemorrhage and was partially paralyzed. Low, second and reverse suffered complete collapse of the motovaty nerves and left poor high badly overburdened, thus affecting composure of chauffer. While injury seemed trivial at first, treatment proved unobtainable and a major catastrophe developed. Patient was unavoidably retired from active service and in lieu of treatment, it was determined that further long-standing elements must be treated and so the heart was removed for observation and repairs. Tragically enough, this disclosed more faults that required unobtainable replacements. Now patient is interned in isolation ward until Pistons, transmission parts and other odds and ends can be obtained. Another birthday come and and gone with a very pleased recipient of gifts from home. McDonald’s had a little supper party with cake and candles. My burns (ha ha) have nearly disappeared (all signs of them, I mean). They turned out not half as bad as the other ones did, and I lost only three days work. I finished my course, took the CAA test and made an average of 86 which was up near the top of those grades received by the other students. Now I just need flying time and lots more of it. Can’t you picture me up high in the sky peeking around behind a cirrus cloud to see if the dew point is anywhere near the base of the cloud, or flying blind into the side of the next mountain only to discover I’d forgotten to correct for easterly deviation, and neglecting at the same time to consider the wind drift. Ah. Me, I wonder if I’ll ever get to use any of your laboriously gleaned aeronautical knowledge. Incidentally, if you want to get a good education in meteorology, as it is affected by weather, and get it in an easy to take form, get the book “STORM” from Mrs. Ives, or from the library. It has humor, pathos, drama, suspense and human interest all woven around the birth, growth and passing of a storm and its effects on men and their puny works.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting the middle section of this letter with excerpts from Ced and Marian. On Wednesday, excerpts from  Dave along with Grandpa’s usual home town news. On Thursday and Friday, another letter from Grandpa.

Judy Guion

Trumbull – Extracts from the Diary of Alfred D. Guion (2) – July 18, 1943 – The Mountain Went to Mohammed

This is the second half of a letter from Grandpa to his four sons who are all in service to Uncle Sam.

Daniel (Dan) Beck Guion

Daniel Beck Guion

Thursday, July 15.

Up betimes this morning – a bit after 5 AM to be exact, because this was to be the day when the mountain went to Mohammed. Dan has been consistently evading accepting furloughs that his C. O. has been trying to force upon him on numerous occasions lately, and I made up my paternal mind that I wouldn’t let him get away with it any longer but would seek Daniel in his den, so off I goes to Lancaster. From 1:34 until 7:00 I tramped the country surrounding Lancaster without even seeing one lion, even less Dan, finally learning that his whole outfit had been moved, bag and baggage, to a rumored place about 40 miles distant. With tired heart and sinking feet (or vice versa), but with the old Guion spirit which refuses to be licked, I started to trail T-5 and at 9:30 that night, after sampling bus transportation in Pennsylvania, I arrived at a Service Club in Indiantown Gap (an exact replica, Lad, of the Service Club in Aberdeen) and was tapped on the shoulder and a level (or transit) voice inquired if my surveying of the premises indicated I was searching for anyone in particular. And who do you suppose it was? Right! We never decided who was the more surprised, and I guess we’ll never know. I stayed in his barracks that night by permission of the Sgt., ate a  soldier’s breakfast at six something and after a nice long talk, in which I forgot to ask several things I had come down to find out about (one was what disposition Dan wanted made of his auto which is standing unused in the backyard), I took the 10 AM bus on my return journey (Dan’s time was up anyway), and after transportation delays and journeys in air-conditioned cars which weren’t conditioning, finally arrived back home a bit after 8 PM. Dan expects to be shipped out soon, but when or where is a deep, dark secret.

Saturday, July 17.

Aunt Anne phoned to ask if it would be all right for her and Gwen to come up to stay over with Aunt Dorothy. Gwen, it seems, is with her mother in New Rochelle for the summer but expects to go back to school in Vermont in the fall. Today was Jean’s birthday, which she spent with her family in Stratford.

Sunday, July 18.

Due to being back on the old kitchen detail, I have to divide my Sunday time now, once again, to getting dinner and trying to do odd jobs around the house. Today

I wanted to do some repairs on the old washing machine and also get the laundry tubs in working condition, but had time only for the latter. And I didn’t get the grass cut either. (Dave was busy praying for his father who failed to keep holy the Sabbath day). Carl is now in the Merchant Marine, but can’t land the kind of job he wants because of his colorblindness, so he says he may be peeling potatoes or doing any other job where it won’t matter if things are pink or purple. Barbara is being given a farewell party tonight by the young people. I was invited and intended to go, but it was so late when the Aunts finally got away and I needed a shave and had not written my weekly blurb (even now it is 10:20 and the shave is still to be) and I haven’t had any supper, and it’s getting near the end of the page so I’ll end this now.

Your faithful

DAD

Tomorrow, a letter from Bissie to her older brother, Ced, in Alaska.  On Saturday, the next installment of the Diary and Journal of John Jackson Lewis and his Voyage th California. On Sunday, in my series, My Ancestors, a post about Alfred Beck Guion, my great-grandfather. 

If you are enjoying these letters from an earlier time, please share them with others you think might also enjoy them. If you click FOLLOW VIA EMAIL and enter your email address, each post will automatically be delivered to your inbox. Now how easy is that???

Judy Guion

Special Picture # 339 – “The Gang” at the Trumbull House – 1934

This is a photo of many of the young people who congregated at the Trumbull House. This photo was taken in 1936 on the side porch.  A few of them are mentioned in Grandpa’s early letters regularly.Those include Barbara Plumb (who was actually engaged to Dan for a while); Jane Claude-Mantle (who married Charlie Hall and is the mother of a great childhood friend); Ethel Bushey (very good friend of Elizabeth (Bissie) Grandpa’s only daughter); and Arnold Gibson (Lad’s best friend). Lad is in the back row, 4th from the right, Dan is in the  front row, 1st from the right, Dave is in the front row, 2nd from the right.

Special Picture # 340 – Arla Mary (Peabody) Guion with Some of her Children

 

 

Arla Mary (Peabody Guion with Alfred Peabody Guion (my Dad) – 1914

Arla Mary (Peabody) Guion with Daniel Beck Guion – 1916

Arla Mary (Peabody) Guion and Richard Peabody Guion – 1922

Arla Mary Peabody Guion with her first five children – Dan, Lad, Ced, Dick and Biss – 1921

Trumbull – Dear High School Graduate (1) – Dave’s Graduation and News From Dan – June 25, 1944

David Peabody Guion – (Dave)

Trumbull, Conn., June 25th, 1944

Dear High School Graduate:

There are certain recurring events in the life and progress of my children that serve as steppingstones, aside from birthdays — such as turning you over to the Shelton draft board, and, what I have immediately in mind, graduation. I saw the youngest of my sons receive his diploma last night and it brought back memories of that same occasion for each of you. As far as I can recollect, however, the whole affair as managed the other night at Bassick (High School in Bridgeport, CT) was arranged and conducted in a more satisfactory manner than any of the previous ones — and that opinion has nothing to do with the fact that Dave had any part in it. To be sure he was one of three, out of a total of 26 who had joined the Armed Forces, who was on hand to receive his diploma, and thereby caused a little special ceremony to be enacted. Most of these affairs are too long. This was not. There was no tedious reading of each name and waiting for that person to come forward to receive his parchment to the accompaniment of reiterated and tiresome applause. Each received his diploma in silence as they walked out. All names were printed on the program given to each of the audience. Speeches were not overlong. The whole affair, with a very satisfying aftertaste, was ended by 9:30. So Dave became the “last of the Mohicans”.

Dave got home much earlier than we expected him. He walked into my office Monday, his army uniform plastered to his body by a naughty shower that hit him walking from the station. He looks about the same, healthy but with no additional weight. He seems much interested in the Signal Corps work and hopes, but is not banking on it, of getting a chance at O.C.S. He goes back Tuesday. Red Sirene is also home on furlough and he too goes back Tuesday. Jean’s (Mortensen, Dick’s wife) married brother, in the Marines, is also on furlough and he too goes back Tuesday.

        Daniel Beck Guion – (Dan)

I don’t suppose any of you have had the experience of a 300-pound object resting on your chest, but perhaps you can imagine the relief when he gets off. In that case you may have somewhat of an idea how I felt when I received a V-mail letter from London dated June 6th, as follows: “Today the war seems much nearer to its conclusion than only yesterday. For so long have we been working towards this day that it began to seem that it would never really happen — that it was just a distant “certainty” which we all took for granted — but never quite visualized! This morning I heard the first “rumor” third-hand, by word-of-mouth, ‘Allied paratroops have landed in France’. But false reports had already been spread days ago, and a glance out of the window at the streets of London failed to reveal any abnormality. No church bells, no horns blowing, just the normal traffic — both vehicular and pedestrian. London was characteristically undisturbed on the surface, but by noon-time when I went out to eat, I found that the newspapers had been sold out immediately and the invasion was the predominant topic of discussion. At the Red Cross Club I listened to the radio over which the BBC was broadcasting recordings of the opening stages. Later in the evening the radio was the center of interest. Never have I seen so many of the boys so interested in a news- cast. I suppose each of us realizes how, by a stroke of fate, we might have been one of the men going into France on ‘D’ Day! I am on duty tonight which prevents my finding out how London is spending the evening but I suspect there will be little hilarity because most of the people have friends and relatives in the invasion armies. The fall of Rome created hardly a ripple of excitement, and the staid BBC announced that item in its regular laconic fashion. The newspapers permitted themselves rather large headlines, but certainly not in the manner you could call sensational. I believe today marks the great speeding of the tempo that will carry this degenerate martian symphony to a brief but perhaps terrible coda. Then – peace! and home! and a convalescent world turning toward the healing sun of hope.”